“In a sick-room,” he vehemently declared, “a woman is well enough, but the woman is the devil and all. I’ve told that young man plainly, sir, that he doesn’t see your daughter till he gets well—and, by George, sir, he’ll get well now just in order to see her. Nature is the only doctor who ever cures anybody, Colonel; we humans, for all our pill-boxes and lancets, can only prompt her—and devilish demoralising advice we generally give her, too,” he added, with a chuckle.
This was the first observation of Mr. Woods when he came to his senses. He swore feebly when Peggy was denied to him. He pleaded. He scolded. He even threatened, as a last resort, to get out of bed and go in immediate search of her; and in return, Jeal told him very affably that it was far less difficult to manage a patient in a straight-jacket than one out of it, and that personally nothing would please him so much as a plausible pretext for clapping Mr. Woods into one of ’em. Jeal had his own methods in dealing with the fractious.
Then Billy clamoured for Colonel Hugonin, and subsequently the Colonel came in some bewilderment to his daughter’s rooms.
“Billy says that will ain’t to be probated,” he informed her, testily. “I’m to make sure it ain’t probated till he gets well. You’re to give me your word you’ll do nothing further in the matter till Billy gets well. That’s his message, and I’d like to know what the devil this infernal nonsense means. I ain’t a Fenian nor yet a Guy Fawkes, daughter, and in consequence I’m free to confess I don’t care for all this damn mystery and shilly-shallying. But that’s the message.”
Miss Hugonin debated with herself. “That I will do nothing further in the matter till Billy gets well,” she repeated, reflectively. “Yes, I suppose I’ll have to promise it, but you can tell him for me that I consider he is horrid, and just as obstinate and selfish as he can possibly be. Can you remember that, attractive?”
“Yes, thank you,” said the Colonel. “I can remember it, but I ain’t going to. Nice sort of message to send a sick man, ain’t it? I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Margaret—no, begad, I don’t! I think you’re possessed of seventeen devils. And now,” the old gentleman demanded, after an awkward pause, “are you or are you not going to tell me what all this mystery is about?”
“I can’t,” Miss Hugonin protested. “It—it’s a secret, attractive.”
“It ain’t,” said the Colonel, flatly—“it’s some more damn foolishness.” And he went away in a fret and using language.
Left to herself, Miss Hugonin meditated.
Miss Hugonin was in her kimono.
And oh, Madame Chrysastheme! oh, Madame Butterfly! Oh, Mimosa San, and Pitti Sing, and Yum Yum, and all ye vaunted beauties of Japan! if you could have seen her in that garb! Poor little ladies of the Orient, how hopelessly you would have wrung your henna-stained fingers! Poor little Ichabods of the East, whose glory departed irretrievably when she adopted this garment, I tremble to think of the heart-burnings and palpitations and hari-karis that would have ensued.